New San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting quickly joins party leadership

S.F. Examiner File PhotoAssemblyman Phil Ting

S.F. Examiner File PhotoAssemblyman Phil Ting

Assemblyman Phil Ting is part of the largest field of new state lawmakers since 1966. But when he was named to one of the Assembly’s top leadership posts on the first day of his term, it was a sign that San Francisco’s outgoing assessor-recorder is determined to stand out in Sacramento.

Ting, the new Democratic Caucus chairman, succeeds termed-out Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, who left office as the Assembly speaker pro tempore. With Ma’s departure, San Francisco’s future clout in the body rides on Ting, who could serve up to 12 years in the Assembly under the state’s revised term limit rules.

As San Francisco’s assessor-recorder, Ting reformed the practices of his office and raised revenues for The City. He co-chaired the San Francisco Solar Task Force, which led to the GoSolarSF program, an incentive program that made it easier for residents to put panels on their homes. He  also launched Reset San Francisco, a website dedicated to the Government 2.0 movement, which seeks to use technology to engage citizens and make bureaucracies more efficient.

Ting also made national news in February when his office released a groundbreaking report about home foreclosures that was the largest such review to date. Out of almost 400 loans reviewed, the report found that 84 percent appeared to violate the law, and that 98 percent contained irregularities. This data helped lead to the passage of new laws designed to protect borrowers.

The new assemblyman vows to take that same big-picture approach to the Assembly, where he believes that new lawmakers such as himself should tackle “longer-term issues.”

During an interview that discussed several such priorities, Ting pointed to the state budget as one structural problem that cannot be cured with a single quick fix. Citing his tax and revenue background, Ting called state income and spending issues a personal priority. He said residents need more clarity about how their tax money is being spent.

“We have this unique opportunity that the state voters have given us,” Ting said. “They have told us they are not happy with how the state is run.”

Ting also vowed to continue his work in other areas, including education, the environment and government efficiency.

“We are not investing in our children and our future” when it comes to education spending, the father of two school-age daughters said. Noting that he is a beneficiary of California’s primary and secondary public schools, he said, “I hope I can offer the same to my kids.”

The new lawmaker’s very first bill proposed that the state adopt online voting, which he believes would make government more accessible and efficient. But while such government-reform issues reflect his priorities, the new lawmaker is not shy about hot-button issues, including gun control.

Ting said he was personally moved by the recent school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “The thought of dropping off my daughter in an environment that is unsafe is troubling,” he said. “We need to have an open dialogue about gun control and ammunition.”

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